CIA tried to break security of Apple devices, report says

The CIA has targeted Apple devices for years, trying to break the encryption on the company’s iPhones and install backdoors into apps, according to an Intercept report based on documents leaked by former government tech contractor Edward Snowden.

Information about the efforts was presented at a 2012 Central Intelligence Agency annual secret meeting called the Jamboree. Those who attended the meeting talked about how to exploit security flaws in household and commercial electronics, according to the Intercept.

The CIA researchers reportedly created a version of Apple’s app developer tool, Xcode, which could enable the theft and tracking of data from apps from the App Store. In addition, they said they modified the OS X updater to install a keylogger, which could record and transmit the keystrokes of users of Mac computers.

Did their work bear fruit? From the Intercept:

The documents do not address how successful the targeting of Apple’s encryption mechanisms have been, nor do they provide any detail about the specific use of such exploits by U.S. intelligence. But they do shed light on an ongoing campaign aimed at defeating the tech giant’s efforts to secure its products, and in turn, its customers’ private data.

The news about the CIA campaign comes amid efforts by tech companies to resist government surveillance after the Snowden leaks revealed the NSA’s mass spying on Internet and electronic communications.

Among the earliest revelations, in the summer of 2013, was the existence of a program called Prism. It involved government spying on Internet users via backdoors into the servers of companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and others. The tech companies have denied giving the government direct access to their users’ information. Since then, they have publicly battled against government spying, including by pushing to be able to disclose more about government requests for user information, and by stepping up their encryption effortsTroy Wolverton reported last month that Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at President Obama’s cybersecurity summit in Silicon Valley, emphasized his company’s commitment to protecting its customers’ privacy.


Photo of iPhone 5s devices courtesy of Apple


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  • vidster

    Spying on the bad guys and those communicating directly with them is understandable and OK. Creating exploits that compromises the security of ALL of us to government spies AND criminal hackers is not OK. Officials who approved such programs bare responsibility for trampling the constitution and should suffer consequence accordingly.

    • Wayne Breivogel

      Perhaps a good strong length of rope, or, since they want to act like Nazis, let them suffer the indignity of meat hooks and piano wire. But I’d settle for them receiving life terms in SuperMax.

  • sleepy duck

    These are the reason companies are opening data centers in europe. There goes some good paying jobs.

  • Wayne Breivogel

    I’d rather have datacenters in Europe in an attempt to thwart, to some extent, the US government’s bulk fishing expedition. They have completely violated their oaths to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, by, in fact, becoming the very domestic enemy they have sworn to protect us from.

  • Mary McDwell

    Spying is seemed in almost everywhere. At this developed age you may easily spy on others by ikeyMonitor. But I think users should not cross the limit.